Jeremy Davis and the Fabulous Equinox Orchestra – Great American Swagger (2011)

Share this:

You come in expecting one thing, being as Jeremy Davis focuses on the mid-century big-band formula. And, at times, you hear Sinatra in this album. Dorsey, too.

So, it’s easy at first to group Davis and a band fronted by singer Clay Johnson with the ever-growing legions trying to reanimate those bow-tied old black-and-white orchestras. They might have a brassy power, and maybe no small amount of grace, but the Fabulous Equinox Orchestra isn’t breaking any new ground there, right? In the age of Michael Buble — a photocopy of Harry Connick’s photocopy of the great Rat Pack-era swingers — Great American Swagger wouldn’t seem to offer much in the way of surprises.

Then, you start listening.

Actually, this isn’t a dust-covered trip into the special collections area of the library. Far from it. Davis and Co., based out of Savannah, Georgia, approach the album with a vigor and gumption that belie their youth, performing with an unabashed, unquenchable joy — but, perhaps just as important, with no small amount of smarts. The Fabulous Equinox Orchestra tackle this material with a sharp eye toward the bluesy antecedents that fed into big-band jazz, the modern improvisational wonders that initially subsumed it, and the rock attitude that finally killed it off.

Davis himself works hard, it seems, to keep the spotlight away from his talents on the tenor, but when he steps out into that bright circle his horn is both resilient and warm. He plays with a roving eye, and rich authority — echoing groundbreaking visionaries like Coleman Hawkins, who excelled as a sweetly inviting wartime swing star but could also gather himself to remake “Body and Soul” into one of the touchstone moments in modern jazz.

Davis helps nudge Great American Swagger into a similarly panoramic vista, as the group ultimately takes in all of the things that we’ve come to expect from these kind of projects — but also a little rockabilly, a little Louisiana second-line, a little soft shoe, a little R&B, and a lot of unbridled fun. As the brass, reeds and vocals sway and (yes) swagger, this album finds a way to sound both timeless and brand new.

In so doing, Davis and the Fabulous Equinox Orchestra (with an assist on the charts from Hoppy Hallman and Bach Norwood) ensure that their music remains contemporary — remains relevant, and so very alive — despite its age-old format. This ain’t your grandpop’s scratched-up old record, or even your older brother’s cassette. It’s a whole new amalgam, and welcome indeed.

[amazon_enhanced asin=”B00631WGUM” container=”” container_class=”” price=”All” background_color=”FFFFFF” link_color=”000000″ text_color=”0000FF” /]

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
Share this:
Close